2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive Review
BMW’s K1600GTL Exclusive is known to enjoy a diet consisting mainly of great slices of relatively straight pavement. But can this 850-pound high-performance luxury touring rig go on a mission with dedicated sport bikes almost half its weight on some of the most challenging roads anywhere and stay with the action?
I had just received the bike and had not ridden any roads twistier than the freeway -so I had my concerns.
We found out last weekend on a 360-mile round trip from northern Los Angeles to Lake Isabella and Kernville, Calif. In attendance were three GSX-R 1000s, two Ducati Multistradas, two Aprilia Tuonos, a BMW R1200GS (on street rubber), a Benelli Cafe Racer 1130, and an MV Agusta Brutale 1090.
Temperatures ranged from 60-95 degrees as we tore through the high desert, and about half of our miles were spent on freeways to and from our point of disembarkation. It was obvious from the planning stages that grinding out 150 miles of freeway in the splendid comfort of the GTL would far surpass the experience of those crouched over their sportbike handlebars and getting pounded by every tar strip in the road. I wondered what would happen once the tables were turned and the racer boys were in their element.
As we approached Sand Canyon and our back-road jaunt, my thoughts consisted of being open minded and trying not to embarrass myself. I knew the GTL could never really run with these wolves, but how would it fare as I adjusted the ESA (electronic suspension) to maximum damping and preload, and the fueling mode to Dynamic, which gives the most throttle response and allows a bit of rear-end slide from the traction control?
Of course, at the morning gathering point I was to endure a bit of gaffing for my choice of bike. Jokes about large ships and marine mammals were the most popular, but by lunchtime all jibes had stopped as I had never fallen far behind.
The GTL charges ahead with any strong throttle input unlike all other touring bikes on the market. It may not win a drag race with a few big-cc machines out there, but it just rockets from corner to corner with a sound unlike any other engine I’ve experienced.
The Mighty K’s 1,649cc, 24-valve DOHC inline 6 has a bit of a growl off idle but when the revs elevate it can sound more like a raygun, which some may say is not soulful. I find that the meaning of soul is elusive and hard to define. Character, on the other hand, can be quantified and described and the GTL exudes this from every pore. The claimed 160 horsepower and 129 lbs/ft of torque work their magic. It always offers the pilot more and the amenities are without peer.
I was not surprised as we dropped into the first of countless fast, curvy sections of road and the K leaned, without qualms, right to its foot pegs and flung itself out of the turns. It tracks neutrally on Metzler Roadtec Z8 tires and allows for aggressive trail braking.
The characteristics of the Duolever front suspension minimize any dive so hard braking will not change the rider’s line. It inspires confidence and, having slid forward in the great saddle to get more weight over the slightly forward foot pegs, I found that the bike will flick in any but the very tightest curves. Lean it over, apply throttle, and the bike is all business and makes no apologies for its heft. Nor are any needed.
Nothing even approaching the size of this GTL can do what it does. It surely is in a class of its own and let’s just say there were no chicken strips for lunch. Navigating narrow and curvy country roads is a cinch for the GTL and the only times I needed to back off were those 270-degree switchbacks that gain 20 feet of elevation on Caliente-Bodfish Road (which happens to be unusually clean as of this writing). Even in those situations the bike easily climbed out in second gear with no pucker moments.
The character of the power band on the Mighty K must be called flexible. The engine will encourage you to attack the turns in second gear and ride with your hair on fire if that be your game, but on those same roads the bike will be happy in fourth and, yes, even fifth gear. Pin the throttle at 50 mph in fifth (2500 rpm) and the GTL will accelerate very hard with no murmur of complaint or hesitation.
As with many of BMW’s bikes, their tried-and-true Doulever and Paralever suspension systems, under the guidance of the ESA software, operate flawlessly, as do the Brembo sourced brakes which are linked and have good initial bite and a crisp feel.
Through every type of imaginable scenario of braking and handling the BMW was poised and ready for more. When aggressively ridden the foot pegs do scrape often but one can adopt a style that allows for less contact by not rocketing through and out of corners as sharply. The rider knows where contact will be made and smooth throttle and brake action alleviate all distractions.
I can’t delve into all aspects of the bike here as we have more in store for the GTL Exclusive. Here we just offer one rider’s experience and that experience is quite positive. The cockpit size, layout, tech, switchgear and proportioning is about perfect for most riders.
The windscreen is large and powered to raise to almost vertical, protecting the rider and passenger. It lowers to where this 6-footer can see a couple of inches above the screen. I’d like it even lower and that might drive my choice for the GT model, but it does a good job and is not annoying.
There isn’t a visible surface on this machine that is not slathered in an opulent finish. Three layers of Mineral white metallic paint is set against Magnesium metallic matt and offset with a good deal of chrome.
Seating, as befits the station of this machine, is luxurious, nicely sectioned and stitched in a gold-hue material that seems to change color slightly in varying light. The passenger section is fully eight inches above the rider for a true king and queen seat and the bolster behind the rider’s back is perfectly placed for support.
I ride fast more often than I ride far – and rarely two-up. That might sway my buying decision toward the K1600GT with a lower windshield and slightly more rear-placed foot pegs, but I’m nitpicking. The K1600GTL Exclusive really can do it all. Whether you plan to go from Maine to Mexico or live in the twisties the Mighty K can even hang with the Star Fighters.
The Exclusive is $29,999 MSRP with the only option being the Garmin-sourced GPS for $800.